Nat Torkington

Nat has chaired the O'Reilly Open Source Convention and other O'Reilly conferences for over a decade. He ran the first web server in New Zealand, co-wrote the best-selling Perl Cookbook, and was one of the founding Radar bloggers. He lives in New Zealand and consults in the Asia-Pacific region.

Four short links: 16 February 2015

Four short links: 16 February 2015

Grace Hopper, Car Dashboard UIs, DAO Governance, and Sahale.

  1. The Queen of Code — 12m documentary on Grace Hopper, produced by fivethirtyeight.com.
  2. Car Dashboard UI Collection — inspiration board for your (data) dashboards.
  3. Subjectivity-Exploitability TradeoffVoting-based DAOs, lacking an equivalent of shareholder regulation, are vulnerable to attacks where 51% of participants collude to take all of the DAO’s assets for themselves […] The example supplied here will define a new, third, hypothetical form of blockchain or DAO governance. Every day we’re closer to Stross’s Accelerando.
  4. Sahale — open source cascading workflow visualizer to help you make sense of tasks decomposed into Hadoop jobs. (via Code as Craft)
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Four short links: 13 February 2015

Four short links: 13 February 2015

Web Post-Mortem, Data Flow, Hospital Robots, and Robust Complex Networks

  1. What Happened to Web Intents (Paul Kinlan) — I love post-mortems, and this is a thoughtful one.
  2. Apache NiFi — incubated open source project for data flow.
  3. Tug Hospital Robot (Wired) — It may have an adult voice, but Tug has a childlike air, even though in this hospital you’re supposed to treat it like a wheelchair-bound old lady. It’s just so innocent, so earnest, and at times, a bit helpless. If there’s enough stuff blocking its way in a corridor, for instance, it can’t reroute around the obstruction. This happened to the Tug we were trailing in pediatrics. “Oh, something’s in its way!” a woman in scrubs says with an expression like she herself had ruined the robot’s day. She tries moving the wheeled contraption but it won’t budge. “Uh, oh!” She shoves on it some more and finally gets it to move. “Go, Tug, go!” she exclaims as the robot, true to its programming, continues down the hall.
  4. Improving the Robustness of Complex Networks with Preserving Community Structure (PLoSone) — To improve robustness while minimizing the above three costly changes, we first seek to verify that the community structure of networks actually do identify the robustness and vulnerability of networks to some extent. Then, we propose an effective 3-step strategy for robustness improvement, which retains the degree distribution of a network, as well as preserves its community structure.
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Four short links: 12 February 2015

Four short links: 12 February 2015

Finance Instrument, Retro Predictions, Trust Engineering, and Haptics

  1. Update on indie.vcWe’ve worked with the team at Cooley to create an investment instrument that has elements of both debt and equity. Debt in that we will not be purchasing equity initially, but, unlike debt, there is no maturity date, no collateralization of assets and no recourse if it’s never paid back. The equity element will only become a factor if the participating company chooses to raise a round of financing or sell out to an acquiring company. We don’t have a clever acronym or name for this instrument yet, but I’m sure we’ll come up with something great.
  2. How Nathan Barley Came True (Guardian) — if you haven’t already seen Nathan Barley, you should. It’s by the guy who did Black Mirror, and it’s both awful and authentic and predictive and retro and … painfully accurate about the horrors of our Internet/New Media industry. (via BoingBoing)
  3. Trust Engineers (Radio Lab) — Facebook has a created a laboratory of human behavior the likes of which we’ve never seen. We peek into the work of Arturo Bejar and a team of researchers who are tweaking our online experience, bit by bit, to try to make the world a better place. Radio show of goodness. (via Flowing Data)
  4. DARPA’S Haptix ProjectThe goal of the HAPTIX program is to provide amputees with prosthetic limb systems that feel and function like natural limbs, and to develop next-generation sensorimotor interfaces to drive and receive rich sensory content from these limbs. Today it’s prosthetic limbs for amputees, but within five years it’ll be augmented ad-driven realities for virtual currency ambient social recommendations.
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Four short links: 11 February 2015

Four short links: 11 February 2015

Crowdsourcing Working, etcd DKVS, Psychology Progress, and Inferring Logfile Rules

  1. Crowdsourcing Isn’t Broken — great rundown of ways to keep crowdsourcing on track. As with open sourcing something, just throwing open the doors and hoping for the best has a low probability of success.
  2. etcd Hits 2.0 — first major stable release of an open source, distributed, consistent key-value store for shared configuration, service discovery, and scheduler coordination.
  3. You Can’t Play 20 Questions With Nature and Win (PDF) — There is, I submit, a view of the scientific endeavor that is implicit (and sometimes explicit) in the picture I have presented above. Science advances by playing 20 questions with nature. The proper tactic is to frame a general question, hopefully binary, that can be attacked experimentally. Having settled that bits-worth, one can proceed to the next. The policy appears optimal – one never risks much, there is feedback from nature at every step, and progress is inevitable. Unfortunately, the questions never seem to be really answered, the strategy does not seem to work. An old paper, but still resonant today. (via Mind Hacks)
  4. Sequence: Automated Analyzer for Reducing 100k Messages to 10s of Patterns — induces patterns from the examples in log files.
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Four short links: 10 February 2015

Four short links: 10 February 2015

Speech Recognition, Predictive Analytic Queries, Video Chat, and Javascript UI Library

  1. The Uncanny Valley of Speech Recognition (Zach Holman) — I’m reminded of driving up US-280 in 2003 or so with @raelity, a Kiwi and a South African trying every permutation of American accent from Kentucky to Yosemite Sam in order to get TellMe to stop giving us the weather for zipcode 10000. It didn’t recognise the swearing either. (Caution: features similarly strong language.)
  2. TuPAQ: An Efficient Planner for Large-scale Predictive Analytic Queries (PDF) — an integrated PAQ [Predictive Analytic Queries] planning architecture that combines advanced model search techniques, bandit resource allocation via runtime algorithm introspection, and physical optimization via batching. The resulting system, TUPAQ, solves the PAQ planning problem with comparable accuracy to exhaustive strategies but an order of magnitude faster, and can scale to models trained on terabytes of data across hundreds of machines.
  3. p2pvc — point-to-point video chat. In an 80×25 terminal window.
  4. Sortable — nifty UI library.
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Four short links: 9 February 2015

Four short links: 9 February 2015

iBeacon at Scale, Product Teams, Progress Bars, and Distributed Fallacies

  1. The Realities of Installing iBeacon at Scale (Brooklyn Museum) — death by a thousand mundane little real-world pains.
  2. How We Build Software (Intercom) — rare to see descriptions of how to build product teams.
  3. MProgress.js — Material Design progress bars for the web.
  4. Eight Fallacies of Distributed Computing — your network is unreliable, slow, congested, insecure, changing, expensive, and inconsistent. And that’s on a good day.
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Four short links: 6 February 2015

Four short links: 6 February 2015

Active Learning, Tongue Sensors, Cybernetic Management, and HTML5 Game Publishing

  1. Real World Active Learningthe point at which algorithms fail is precisely where there’s an opportunity to insert human judgment to actively improve the algorithm’s performance. An O’Reilly report with CrowdFlower.
  2. Hearing With Your Tongue (BoingBoing) — The tongue contains thousands of nerves, and the region of the brain that interprets touch sensations from the tongue is capable of decoding complicated information. “What we are trying to do is another form of sensory substitution,” Williams said.
  3. The Art of Management — cybernetics and management.
  4. kiwi.jsa mobile & desktop browser based HTML5 game framework. It uses CocoonJS for publishing to the AppStore.
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Four short links: 5 February 2015

Four short links: 5 February 2015

Mobile Supply Chain, Regulating the Interwebs, Meh MOOCs, and Security School

  1. The Home and the Mobile Supply Chain (Benedict Evans) — the small hardware start-up, and the cool new gizmos from drones to wearables, are possible because of the low price of components built at the scale required for Apple and other mobile device makers. (via Matt Webb)
  2. FCC Chairman Wheeler Proposes New Rules for Protecting the Open Internet (PDF) — America may yet have freedom. No blocking, no throttling, no paid prioritisation.
  3. The Future of College (Bill Gates) — The MOOC, by itself, doesn’t really change things, except for the very most motivated student. HALLELUJAH!
  4. Breaker 101 — 12-week online security course. $1,750 (cue eyes water). Putting the hacker back in hacker schools …
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Four short links: 4 February, 2015

Four short links: 4 February, 2015

CLR Open Source, Cluster Management, Workplace Bias, and So Much Chrome

  1. CoreCLR Open Sourced (MSDN) — garbage collection, compilation to machine code, and other bits of the CLR.
  2. Kafka Manager — Yahoo open sources a cluster management tool.
  3. Unconscious Bias at Work — useful talk on workplace biases.
  4. All the Chrome (Quirksmode) — Google Chrome is not the default browser on Android 4.3+. There are now at least eight Chromium-based Android default browsers, and they are all subtly, though not wildly, different. The number of Chromium family members has recently risen from nine to eleven with the addition of HTC and LG Chromium, default browsers for modern HTC and LG high-end devices.
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Four short links: 3 February 2015

Four short links: 3 February 2015

Product Trends, Writing Code, Simple Testing, and Quantum Gotchas

  1. Frog Design Predictions (Wired) — designers pick product trends, arrayed from probable to speculative.
  2. Making Wrong Code Look Wrong (Joel Spolsky) — This makes mistakes even more visible. Your eyes will learn to “see” smelly code, and this will help you find obscure security bugs just through the normal process of writing code and reading code.
  3. Simple Testing Can Prevent Most Critical FailuresWe found the majority of catastrophic failures could easily have been prevented by performing simple testing on error handling code – the last line of defense – even without an understanding of the software design. We extracted three simple rules from the bugs that have lead to some of the catastrophic failures, and developed a static [Java] checker, Aspirator, capable of locating these bugs. One of the tests is a FIXME or TODO in an exception handler.
  4. Quantum Machine Learning Algorithms: Read the Fine Print (Scott Aaronson) — In the years since HHL, quantum algorithms achieving “exponential speedups over classical algorithms” have been proposed for other major application areas […]. With each of them, one faces the problem of how to load a large amount of classical data into a quantum computer (or else compute the data “on-the-fly”), in a way that is efficient enough to preserve the quantum speedup.
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